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Planning for a money crunch in hard times

Credit cards can lead to overspending, but there are ways to keep that in check. [TNS PHOTO]
Credit cards can lead to overspending, but there are ways to keep that in check. [TNS PHOTO]

Has your income level changed recently? Or, are you worried about losing your job permanently?

You might be terribly anxious that your income will disappear altogether.

Plenty of people are nervous about their incomes, overdue bills, and rent or mortgage payments. And, they're worried about friends and loved ones.

These tips can help:

• Picture the worst possible outcome and resolve to deal with it. Pretend you're on the TV show, "Survivor." For example, if you could not pay your bills, who could you call on for help?

• Do some research. Talking with your landlord or banker about overdue rent or mortgage payments might yield you some reprieve. After all, rest assured no one wants you to move out during this pandemic. Find out if some options exist. Call your credit card companies as well.

• Get a contingency plan in place. Talk to a knowledgeable person in your city or region. Find out what help is available for yourself and your family. Keep seeking good information. Is there help for getting free groceries? Can you get a loan or gift from a nonprofit agency?

"I've been a nervous wreck just anticipating what might happen," said a factory worker we'll call Jonathan. "I was already two mortgage payments behind before the virus scare hit. My brother and I have made a pact we'll move our families into the same house, if we have to. My parents have assured us they can provide a little money to help with basics. Thank goodness, they have better retirement income than most people."

Jonathan also said his posttraumatic stress from past military experience is kicking in. The "new normal" he's adapting to is giving him fits of anxiety.

If you're in Jonathan's shoes, these tips can help you cope:

• Plan the week ahead, as best you can, but live one day at a time. Do make a seven-day calendar for making phone calls, seeking resources in your community, and sticking to a decently healthy routine. But, vow to focus getting through only one day at a time.

• Tackle your top three problems first. These might be your financial crunch, a health problem, and a serious plumbing problem. Try your best to reach out to a neighbor, a nonprofit, a relative, or a church that will offer help or guidance.

"My husband and I both have healthcare jobs, so I feel OK about our finances for now," said a friend of ours we'll call Betsy. "But, I'm worried about my two brothers and their families. My brothers work in transportation and they are temporarily unemployed. So, I got busy helping them make a contingency plan."

Betsy said she gave her younger brother a few thousand dollars to pay off his small condo. She believes having a roof over one's head is the starting point. She's helped her older brother refinance his house to lower the payment by several hundred dollars a month. She co-signed a loan for him that will increase his payback time, ensuring his monthly payment is more manageable.

"My husband has been wonderful in helping me work with my brothers," Betsy said. "My husband is also helping both my brothers take online courses to train for new jobs in the healthcare field, just in case they need to apply for different jobs in the future."

As we all examine people's lives we care about, it pays to get involved. Do offer good suggestions and encouragement. Try to stay flexible and work with your loved ones in every way possible.

Judi Light Hopson is author of the stress management book, "Cooling Stress Tips." She is also executive director of USA Wellness Cafe at www.usawellnesscafe.org.

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